- Jim Rogash/Getty
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
On Sunday from Houston, the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons square off in Super Bowl LI.
For the Patriots, a win would give Tom Brady and Bill Belichick their fifth title, all but cementing them as the greatest quarterback-coach combo in football history.
But don’t forget about the Falcons, who are in search of their first Super Bowl win and their city’s second championship ever. Matt Ryan is having an MVP season, and the offense stacks up with some of the best offenses ever.
There’s plenty to keep an eye on while you’re watching on Sunday: How will the Patriots slow down Julio Jones and the high-powered Falcons offense? Conversely, how will the Falcons stop Brady?
If all goes according to plan, this could be the highest-scoring Super Bowl in recent memory.
As is tradition around these parts, in honor of the Super Bowl, we corral the larger Business Insider sports team – reporters and editors, present and past – to make a prediction before Sunday. Last year, of the six predictions, only two of us correctly picked the Broncos to beat the Panthers. Let’s see if we can do better this year.
Enjoy the game, everyone!
TONY MANFRED: FALCONS +3
I’m going to go with the Falcons outright. The Patriots’ schedule was really soft, so I don’t know if they’re really as dominant as people think. The best team they played might have been the Seahawks, who beat them and then got smoked by Atlanta.
FALCONS 31, PATRIOTS 23
LEAH GOLDMAN: FALCONS +3
The Falcons have the best offense in the league. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are unstoppable. But on top of that QB-WR duo, you’ve got some of the best running backs in the league. I also think the Falcons have more to play for. It has been 18 years since they’ve had a shot at a Super Bowl ring, and the Pats get there every other year.
I think the Falcons are going to take it in a high-scoring, close one.
FALCONS 30, PATRIOTS 27
BRETT LOGIURATO: PATRIOTS -3
The Falcons have impressed and overperformed expectations at pretty much every turn this season. In the divisional round, the Seahawks were a popular upset pick. In the NFC Championship, the Packers were supposed to be peaking at the exact right time. Both times, Atlanta’s explosive offense, with an MVP-caliber quarterback and perhaps the NFL’s best wide receiver, breezed into the next round.
People are finally taking notice and starting to appreciate the offensive talent this team has. You can bet that includes Bill Belichick, who has had two whole weeks to prepare a game plan. And it’s hard to bet against Belichick when he has two weeks to prepare – not to mention the regular season’s No. 1-ranked defense by points allowed. There’s a good reason that since 2010, head coaches are 3-22 against Belichick when facing him for the first time.
Sunday, of course, will be the first time Dan Quinn faces Belichick.
PATRIOTS 27, FALCONS 23
CORK GAINES: FALCONS +3
While the Patriots have the experience and the better overall résumé this season, these two teams actually enter the Super Bowl equally hot. Over the Patriots’ last eight games (including the playoffs), they are 8-0 and have outscored their opponents by 137 points (17.1 points per game). During the same stretch, the Falcons are 7-1 and have outscored their opponents by 136 points (17.0 points per game). With two evenly matched teams in such a big game, look for it to take a while for the scoring to get started as the teams feel each other out and settle for field goals early in the game. Eventually, the offenses will warm up, and when they do, that favors the Falcons.
FALCONS 30, PATRIOTS 23
SCOTT DAVIS: FALCONS +3
This game is going to come down to points. If you wanna beat the New England Patriots, you gotta score points, and I think this Falcons team can do that. Now, you start talking about a Matt Ryan, a Julio Jones, a Mohamed Sanu, a Taylor Gabriel, who came on this season, you start talking about offensive firepower. Add to those receiving weapons, you have the two-headed running back monster that is Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman – two hard-nosed, blue-collar football players who just get you yards. And on the other side of the ball, you have a quick, fast, speedy defense that can get to the ball, get to the quarterback, and really give these Patriots some problems.
The Falcons will have to play a perfect game to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, but I think they can do it.
FALCONS 36, PATRIOTS 34
EMMETT KNOWLTON: PATRIOTS -3
There’s every reason to believe in the Falcons. Their running game is stellar, and their aerial attack is so well rounded that Matt Ryan somehow has a higher passer rating when Julio Jones, the best wide receiver in football, isn’t on the field.
But I worry about Atlanta’s defense and its ability to get to Tom Brady. Think about the teams that have managed to actually beat the Patriots in the playoffs recently. Both times the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, their defensive fronts were the lifeblood of the team. Last year, the Broncos had Von Miller, who terrorized Brady and then terrorized Cam Newton en route to a Super Bowl MVP. No offense to Vic Beasley, but I’m just not sure the Falcons have a defense that is quite good enough.
PATRIOTS 34, FALCONS 27